Journal Clubs: Assisting Allied Health Practitioners Towards Evidence-Based Practice

CAHE Journal Club Internal Working Party Members(Left to Right) Helen Walker, Leah Jeffries, Dr. Saravana Kumar, Prof. Karen Grimmer-Somers, Lucylynn Lizarondo

In March 2007, the Centre for Allied Health Evidence (CAHE) of the University of South Australia, and the Department of Health South Australia, conceptualised journal clubs (JC) in public health sites across South Australia, to educate and support allied health practitioners in keeping themselves informed with the current best evidence. CAHE subsequently developed a model for sustainable JCs. Step 1 was that CAHE created an internal work group consisting of experienced secondary evidence researchers who would oversee the project and provide the requisite training. Step 2 was to identify pilot sites which could meet face-to-face. The initial JC pilot sites included four multidisciplinary groups from Port Pirie Hospital, Noarlunga Health Services, Southern Cross Care, Royal Adelaide Hospital, and two single-discipline clubs from Lyell McEwin Hospital and Elderly Care Housing Inc. Step 3 was that each JC assigned a facilitator from within the club who had the responsibility of running the meetings, supervising club activities, and liaising with CAHE for support and assistance as required. Step 4 involved training. Before clubs commenced their local JC meetings, CAHE conducted a one-day workshop to assist JC facilitators to acquire knowledge and skills in literature searching, critical appraisal and statistics. Step 5 saw the commencement of the pilot clubs under supervision. The pilot site JCs started regular meetings and set the topics for discussion, while CAHE provided assistance by searching, accessing and evaluating validity of the literature. After only three months of regular meetings, JC members expressed their satisfaction with the program.

After the formation of the pilot groups, the interest for setting up journal clubs from other allied health departments has increased. CAHE now conducts annual workshops to ensure that each of the journal clubs has facilitators who are fully equipped with knowledge and understanding of how to run a club. At present, there are 12 active CAHE journal clubs in South Australia and Victoria, and CAHE has recently received expressions of interest from a group of physiotherapists and occupational therapists in Hobart, Tasmania. The plan is, as time goes on, to encourage autonomy within the clubs. CAHE will gradually withdraw from the JCs as they become more proficient with the process of searching and evaluating research evidence, and will provide assistance as required.

As a service to all allied health, and to other journal clubs that may want to start up on their own, CAHE has a growing collection of critically appraised papers (using the CASP tool – Public Health Resource Unit, Oxford) on a wide range of topics. These are freely accessible in the CAHE website, and reflect journal club discussions to date http://www.unisa.edu.au/cahe/CAHEJC/appraisedarticles.asp. Copyright issues preclude CAHE putting the full text of the critically appraised papers on its website. The citations only are provided so that clinicians can access the article from their own library sources.

Since the formation of the face-to-face journal clubs, a number of clinicians who currently work in professional or geographic isolation have raised the need for an online journal club which will facilitate formation of a ‘virtual’ forum for discussion of scientific literature. Taking a further step into technology, CAHE has commenced developing an online journal club to provide an opportunity for allied health care practitioners to engage in a "virtual" discussion regarding research evidence in practice. At this time, a "server site" has already been created and is now ready for trial. As the initial step to the online forum, CAHE will provide online training using downloadable slides complemented by tutorial recordings available as podcasts. Calls for expression of interest have already been rolled out by the Country Health SA and the Department of Health, South Australia. CAHE looks forward to providing more information on the online JC within the next few months.


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